City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) audiobook
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Remember General Mulaghesh, the tough soldier from City of Stairs? Turns out her retirement isn’t going so well, she is tortured by PTSD and a guilty conscience of maybe having committed war crimes in her youth. She is missing a purpose. And of course, she’s missing a hand.
So when a new assignment comes along she begrudgingly accepts it and goes to the port city of Voortyashtan, which at the time of the gods, was ruled by the goddess of war and her terrifying army of Sentinels, people who gave up their whole self to become magical and almost unbeatable soldiers for the promise of an afterlife, where they would wait to come back to the land of the living for a last war that would destroy all humankind.
If you read City of Stairs (and you probably should, before reading this), you get an idea of how this is going to go: the protagonist will follow a trail that touches both earthly politics and divine machinations to a final showdown.
Maybe the novelty of this fictional world wore down a bit from the 1st book. Maybe there was too much divine and too little real life stuff (I am not a big fan of fantasy, and I positively hate it when magic is used as deus ex machina, that’s just lazy writing). Maybe the divine elements weren’t as fascinating as those in City of Stairs (a city that exists in 2 different dimensions? Stairs to nowhere? Now that’s cool stuff!).
In solid Bennet tradition, character development is excellent, the characters are believable and relatable. As a sufferer of PTSD myself, I found Mulaghesh’s struggles realistic and I was able to empathize with her.
So I didn’t hate this book, believe me there’s way worse junk out there, god only knows how much garbage I have slogged through because I believed the glowing reviews. I guess Bennet set the bar too high with City of Stairs. I will very probably buy the next in the series, I am just not in a terrible hurry to do so. I remain a fan of Bennet’s, I am really happy I discovered this author, and will continue reading his work in the future.
City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) audiobook streamming online
I was actually a lot more into this book, which is the second in the series, than I was in the first. I think what did it for me were the characters. I sort of felt like last time, the characters were lists of attributes, but I think they made the leap this time into more complex people. I would still recommend reading the first book, because there is a lot of worldbuilding going on that forms a useful (and essential) background to what happens in this volume.
Please note: There may be some minor spoilers for book one (City of Stairs) in this review. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.
There is a lot of character overlap with book one, but the protagonist is different. This time, our main POV character is General Turyin Mulaghesh (this is a woman, if you’re not familiar with book one). She spent much of book one pining for retirement on a faraway island, but when we meet her at the beginning of this book, we see retirement was not really agreeing with her. (We learn that this is a theme in her life.) There is also an issue with her length of service as it relates to her pension. So Shara (the heroine of book one, who is now Prime Minister) gets Mulaghesh to come back for a few more months. (This is a common practice, apparently.)
Shara sends Mulaghesh to Voortyashtan, which was formerly the city associated with Voortya, the goddess of death. A lot is going on. A new substance has been discovered and there is a mining operation to recover more of it. A government employee who was investigating this new substance has gone missing. The harbor is being worked on by a Dreyling (think Nordic types if you want to compare to our world) company under the direction of Signe, one of the daughters of Sigurd (Shara’s assistant from book one) and something secretive is going on there.
I just like Mulaghesh better than Shara as a POV character, for some reason. She doesn’t know everything, she isn’t a young idealist, etc. (She does exhibit some idealism, and that becomes important later in the book.) Other characters have appropriate depth for the amount of page time they get. Sigurd we already know, but he is in a new role here and he is not entirely comfortable with it. Signe actually gets quite a lot of depth. Anyway, I really liked the characters here.
Once again, the book starts out as a mystery, or at least partly so. It evolves into several mysteries — who committed a series of grisly murders, who stole a bunch of explosives, is there anything Divine or otherwise suspicious about the substance being mined, who left evidence of performing what must have been a miracle in the mine (in this instance, “miracle” refers to a ritual associated with one of the Divinities designed to have a specific effect)? You do get the answers to these questions and more by the end of the book, and I think the answers are set up nicely and with sound bases in the earlier parts of the story (no deus ex machina, in other words).
There are those who will argue that the plot is very similar to book one. They’re not exactly wrong, but I found that it was a little bit different, and there is enough *else* going on that you don’t always have time to think about that.
Some of the themes are the same from book one. With the Divinities gone, Saypuri technology is expanding and taking over, even on the Continent, and magic or the Divine is receding. People have to deal with that, including cleverly using technology to overcome unexpected Divine problems. There is also a fair amount of racism. Natives are called “Shtanis” and there actually pretty much none of them in the story, only Saypuris and Dreylings. The characters we do follow view the “Shtanis” with suspicion or outright hostility and suspect them of all manner of horrible things. In a sense, it’s payback — the Continentals enslaved Saypuri folks not too many generations ago, and prejudice runs deep. (In the first book, our token Continental character was a member of the elite upper classes.)
There is quite a lot of action, including a battle that seems fitting for the end of most books coming about 2/3 through this one. I thought the pacing was great, building naturally from a slower investigation (complete with roadblocks) to a frantic race to stop an apocalypse.
Tone-wise, this is fairly bleak and dark. I am OK with that but I understand that it will not be for everyone. It seems a natural progression for the story the author wants to tell, though, and I think it is probably politically realistic.
In the end, I thought characterization was much improved from book one. I like the small details that relate to the transition from a society of magic (essentially) to one of technology. I liked the relationship between Sigurd and his daughter. I liked the interrelatedness of all the mysteries and plotlines. I kept wanting to pick this up and read when I should have been doing other things. So, despite the similarities in plots of book 1 and book 2, overall I enjoyed this quite a lot.
Audiobook City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
I enjoyed City of Stairs, and am more than happy to say that I found this book a more enjoyable read. The plot takes place 5 years after the events in the first book took place, in Voortyashtan, a much different setting than Bulikov, where the first book took place, without detracting from the Divinity, and while the new setting is basically a backwater, the world-building is still just as amazing as the first series. This time, though, the narration focuses on Mulagesh, who I found to be a more interesting character; more about her past is revealed and a lot of her struggles associated with PTSD are given attention, showing a more vulnerable and humanizing side to her without detracting from her tough-as-nails character. New characters are also introduced -for example, including a major supporting one from Mulagesh’s dark past, along with Sigrud’s estranged daughter, Signe, who was an enjoyable addition to the series and another strong female character and brilliant engineer -with a few from the first book playing a somewhat minor role (but will play more important parts in the last book in the trilogy). Wish I could write better reviews, but City of Blades -well, the entire trilogy -is really worth reading even if you’re not really into fiction like me, or are looking for a good fantasy series that isn’t typically Tolkien-esque -and each book gets better, so definitely pick up the final book next.
Audio City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) narrated by Buffy Davis
I loved City of Stairs so much that I was itching to pick up the second book in this trilogy as soon as I finished it. When I realised the protagonist of this book was Mulaghesh, one of my favourite characters from City of Stairs, I couldnt wait to read it.
Having served in the military for the majority of her life, Mulaghesh just wants to retire somewhere warm and sunny. At least thats what she thinks she wants. When shes asked to work undercover one final time before she can retire at last, Mulaghesh is sent to Voortyashtan, once ruled by the goddess of war, and finds herself facing her own demons and new dangers.
Mulaghesh is fantastic. Shes an older woman of colour with a prosthetic limb who isnt married, doesnt have children and doesnt wish she had children. In other words, shes such a refreshing heroine in the world of high fantasy.
Where City of Stairs examined history and who gets to tell the worlds stories, City of Blades is an examination of warfare and the people caught up in it. While we all know that war is bad and not a state that any of us desire, City of Blades doesnt demonise soldiers at all. In fact Mulaghesh says it best herself: soldiers are there to serve their country and its people, and they dont do so in the hope that theyll receive glory. Being a soldier is a thankless job, but Mulaghesh lives for defending the weak and shes willing to be unpopular for it.
I just love her. Shes funny, and not someone youd want to cross, but under all of that she has a heart of gold and I love her so much. This book was such a joy to read purely and simply because it was a pleasure to follow Mulaghesh, and it just proves how good Bennett is at writing characters that I didnt miss following Shara.
We do get glimpses of Shara, and it was lovely to see her again, as well as Sigrud; I loved Sigrud and Sharas friendship in the first book, and Mulaghesh and Sigruds friendship was so much fun in this book. There are new characters too, such as Signe who I loved, and just like the first book Bennett excelled at writing honest people and writing characters who have to learn to live with the consequences of the mistakes theyve made.
I sped through City of Blades, it was such an easy read, and even though I laughed many times because I adore Mulagheshs humour, there were moments that made my heart ache, too. I must admit I didnt love this book quite as much as City of Stairs, or at least it didnt blow my mind in the same way the first book did, but considering City of Stairs is one of the best fantasy books Ive ever read it had quite a pair of shoes to fill and I still loved City of Blades a lot.
If youre a fan of City of Stairs, City of Blades is a brilliant follow-up thats well worth your time, and if you havent read City of Stairs yet what are you waiting for?
Free audio City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2) – in the audio player below
Unless theres a new world order in the next 11 months City of Blades will undoubtedly be on my end of year best of list. To be honest, I expected this to be good because all the books Ive read by RJB have been good and I loved City of Stairs last year but this really is so very good.
At the start of the story we are once again introduced to General Turyin Mulaghesh. Shes retired to a small mediterranean feeling island and is enjoying her seclusion, particularly when shes riling up the locals, until shes rudely jolted out of her retirement by a request from Shara. So Turyin is sent to the City of Voortyashtan apparently one of the last places in this world that anyone would want to go. Her mission is to try and discover what happened to Choudhry, a Saypuri agent who has gone missing in action.
Before the blink Voortyashtan was home to the Goddess of death, war and destruction. It is now on the brink of becoming a successful seaport however not everyone is happy with the current status. It appears that work on creating a successful gateway is dredging up not just artifacts from the sea bottom but also strong emotions. On top of this brutal and ritualistic type murders are discovered across the island and Turyin is about to be pulled into a plot that not only conjures up the ghosts of her past but also poses a threat to the world in which she lives.
The world building is once again outstanding. Voortyashtan is a difficult place to live to say the least. It seems to be under constant threat of retaliation from the unsecured interior districts. The port itself is protected by an army presence and an imposing fort but any travel further afield is dangerous and not to be lightly undertaken. There is a constant threat of subversive/guerrilla type action that makes any investigation into the goings on even more difficult. Personally I would recommend reading City of Stairs before picking this one up although I think you could probably jump on board with Blades and pick up the story fairly easily. Bennett has a way of gently easing you into the world and feeding you information in a very manageable way. So, whilst I would, of course, recommend reading City of Stairs first (partly because I enjoyed it so much partly because I think it gives a good grounding in the history of the Saypuris, Continentals and the Divinities that used to exist) I think this could be read as a standalone.
I must admit that I was at first a little surprised that the author chose to continue this series using Turyin as the main character because Sigrud and Shara were firm favourites for most readers, myself included, but I must say not only does he pull it off but he does so with style and creates one of the most wonderfully complex, flawed, intelligent and easy to root for characters that Ive read about for a while. I absolutely loved her. The power of good writing and a bit of creative genius, eh!
The other characters who join Turyin along the way are Signe. Signe is another very enjoyable character to read about. Shes an engineering genius by all accounts and seems to be almost single handedly running the entire operation to create a successful seaport. On top of this Signe is Sigruds daughter and I cant say shes his biggest fan. She hasnt really forgiven him for what she feels was his abandonment when she was still fairly young and given these feelings the fact that Sigrud makes an appearance during the second half of the book makes for interesting reading. Biswal is another character and something of an unwanted blast from Turyins past this was a dark time in Turyins life and a period that has haunted her for many years. Biswal is now the commander at the fort and once again making his acquaintance is going to bring back painful memories.
I cant really say too much about the plot as it would just give things away. Theres definitely a whodunnit type of feel to this book with Turyin investigating the disappearance of an agent until the plot opens up to reveal a much deeper threat. That being said, be aware that this isnt one of those stories where tens of thousands march to war. It has a more confined feeling, which isnt intended as a criticism, because Bennett manages to cram in battles, murders, Gods, mines, afterlifes, intrigue, politics, scheming and, well a lot more! It certainly has a different feeling from City of Stairs with much more focus on soldiering and serving which I suppose can be expected as were following Turyin. Such a clever device to use Turyin though as it allows Bennett to delve back into the past and reveal more of the history of this world.
Overall, I was quite blown away by City of Stairs. The writing is wonderful, the story is intriguing the characters are excellent to follow, the ending, well, Im just not going to go there, its sad, but also it has an amazing resolution and frankly it just leaves me wanting more. I dont see how you could have a stronger recommendation than that. More, please, I want more.
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